The US Marine Corps (USMC) activated a new Lockheed Martin KC-130J Hercules tanker-transport unit when Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 153 (VMGR-153) ‘Hercules’ was stood up at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii on January 13.
The new unit is assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing’s (MAW’s) Marine Aircraft Group 24 (MAG-24). While it initially received two KC-130Js that had previously been flown by VMGR-352 ‘Raiders’ at MCAS Miramar, California, the squadron will operate a total of 17 aircraft by 2026. The two aircraft – BuNos 170272 and 170273 – arrived at Kaneohe Bay’s Marion E Carl Field on December 6, 2022 – before VMGR-153 was formally activated.
The activation of VMGR-153 is one of several organisational moves that were revealed as part of the 2022 Marine Aviation Plan, which was released in May, last year. In a related move, one of the USMC’s two reserve KC-130J squadrons, VMGR-452 ‘Yankees’, was stood down at Stewart Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Newburgh, New Jersey, on December 2, 2022. Its five KC-130Js were subsequently reassigned to VMGR-234 ‘Rangers’ at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS JRB) Fort Worth, Texas.
As published, the 2022 Marine Aviation Plan called for retaining two KC-130J squadrons in the Marine Corps Reserve with ten and five aircraft, respectively. Ultimately, the decision was made to deactivate VMGR-452 and reassign its five aircraft to VMGR-234. The move will result in all five KC-130J units being equipped with 15 aircraft placed in the Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory (PMAI), along with a further two that will be designated as Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI) by 2026.
The USMC’s plan for the Hercules includes 86 aircraft that comprise 75 PMAI and ten BAI aircraft, plus one KC-130J that will be used to support continued testing carried out by the US Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20) ‘Force’ at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland.